Why Has The Pakistan Government Suddenly Put Hafiz Saeed Under House Arrest?

Posted by Azaad Sandhu in GlobeScope, Politics
February 28, 2017

With our experience as Indians, any positive move by Pakistan is best viewed with suspicion. The peace talks between Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in early 1999, are a case in point. Little did we know, and if reports are to be believed, little did Nawaz know, that the Pakistan army had already begun occupying Indian posts across the Line of Control (LoC) and started the Kargil War. Pakistan’s latest move to be put under the scanner is the placing of Hafiz Saeed – the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks – under house arrest, following which, he was listed under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The Defence Minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Asif, stated in Munich that Hafiz Saeed is a ‘serious threat‘ to Pakistan. However, he was pounded for being pro-India by his fellow politicians. The Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor stated that this was a policy decision and no outside influence contributed to it.

However, the world need not ponder long to understand why Pakistan has finally taken action against a man who has had a $10 million bounty on his head by the US government since 2012, coupled with being the leader of the banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawah.

It would be wrong to look at it as a goodwill gesture towards India. It is more likely to be a decision taken in order to please the new Trump administration. Trump’s anti-Islamic stance could very well spell disaster for Pakistan. Sponsoring terrorism is an allegation that has hovered over the head of Pakistan ever since 1989.

The US Defence Secretary James Mattis’ comments on Iran being the ‘biggest state sponsor of terrorism’ has, once again, offered a temporary reprieve to the Pakistani government. The fact that action hasn’t been taken against Masood Azhar also raises serious questions about the credibility of this move by Pakistan. He’s been on a terror watch list longer than Hafiz Saeed and the Pakistani government has for long been under pressure by the US and Indian government to take action against him.

Ever since Azhar’s release from jail in India in exchange for passengers of IC-814 in 1999, his banned terror outfit, Jaish-e-Muhammad, has been responsible for multiple terror attacks in India, including the Parliament attacks in 2001, which left both countries on the brink of war. Also, China’s (Pakistan’s ‘all weather friend) unwavering support in the UN has allowed Pakistan to remain relatively free from substantial outside pressure.

The latest rebranding of Saeed’s organisation has been done under the banner of Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir. A champion of Kashmir’s ‘freedom’ struggle, Saeed has underlined his intention to never let up on his anti-India stance. This is another questionable move by the Pakistani government, since they regularly seem to allow the rebranding of banned terror organisations. It raises further doubts on their motive behind Saeed’s detention.

The anti-India and pro-Kashmir rhetoric has been Pakistan’s rallying cry ever since its inception in 1947. We wept with Pakistan when terrorists murdered innocent children at Army Public School, Peshawar in December 2014.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched to crack the whip on terror in June 2014. However, this ‘crackdown’ has proven to be superficial. As long as they continue to differentiate between ‘good’ terrorists and ‘bad’ terrorists, their own country, and the rest of the world, is at risk. This is displayed by the fact that Operation Zarb-e-Azb has focussed on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and certain other splinter organisations while completely ignoring those such as the LeT, JeM and the Haqqani Network. After a spate of suicide attacks earlier this month, Pakistan has launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad – their first nationwide anti-terror operation. It will be interesting to see whether any action is taken against Tehreek Azadi Jammu and Kashmir. It is too early to comment on its effectiveness.

Pakistan’s proxy war against India using the LeT and JeM and its support for the Taliban and Haqqani Network in Afghanistan are causing them problems in SAARC as well. This was evident when India boycotted the SAARC meeting in Islamabad last year, in the wake of the Uri terror attack, and five other countries followed suit.

The US support for Pakistan, in terms of aid, has always been conditional. It is based on their willingness to fight the war against terror. When required, Pakistan has been called out for not living up to its word. It is possible that their analysis of the current world situation has led them to the conclusion that they need to change tactics or at least display a change.

However, to really prove to the world that they are willing to drop terror as an instrument of state policy, Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad must truly be ‘nationwide’ and not selective. Masood Azhar must be made priority number one. As Indians, we cannot completely trust the government of Pakistan until the Kashmir issue is resolved. Perhaps, this is their chance to impress the world, and especially Donald Trump.

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